Embezzlement Defense Attorney in Dallas
Embezzlement is a kind of theft. Unlike larceny, robbery, and other types of theft, a person accused of embezzlement first comes into possession of another person’s money or property with the rightful owner’s consent, but then betrays the rightful owner’s trust by converting or appropriating the money or property with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of its use.
For example, an employer may give an employee a corporate credit card to buy office supplies. If the employee uses the card to buy clothes, jewelry, or other items instead for their personal use, the employee could face an embezzlement charge. A person could also be prosecuted for embezzlement for transferring company or client funds from a business or trust account into their account or for using accounting practices to divert income from an individual or company entitled to receive it. A person entrusted with handling the finances of an elderly person will likely face criminal prosecution if they misappropriate the money. Often, public officials are charged with the offense when government funds or property go missing.
Embezzlement is defined as a form of theft under Texas Penal Code § 31.03. Whether a prosecutor brings the charge as a felony or misdemeanor depends on the value of the money or property involved in the alleged embezzlement and whether other special circumstances exist.
Embezzlement can be charged as a violation of federal law as well. Under 18 U.S.C. § 641, it is a crime to embezzle property that the federal government owns or in which it has an interest. If a person embezzled from an organization that received at least $10,000 in federal assistance within the prior year, it can be charged as a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666.
What Is the Punishment for Embezzlement?
Even though it involves no violence or physical harm, embezzlement is still treated as a serious crime. It can carry significant punishment if someone is convicted, regardless of whether it occurs in state or federal court.
In Texas, a violation of Texas Penal Code § 31.03 can lead to a misdemeanor or felony conviction depending primarily on the value of the money or property that was allegedly embezzled. The classifications and range of punishments for a person convicted of embezzlement in Texas are:
- Class C misdemeanor (value less than $100) – A fine of up to $500
- Class B misdemeanor ($100 or more but less than $750) – A jail term of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000, or both
- Class A misdemeanor ($750 or more but less than $2,500) – A jail term of up to one year, and a fine of up to $4,000, or both
- State jail felony ($2,500 or more but less than $30,000) – From 180 days to two years in a state jail and a fine up to $10,000
- Felony of the third degree ($30,000 or more but less than $150,000) – A prison term from two to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000
- Felony of the second degree ($150,000 or more but less than $300,000) – A prison term from two to 20 years and a fine up to $10,000
- Felony of the first degree ($150,000 or more but less than $300,000) – A term of five years to life in prison and a fine up to $10,000
A person’s punishment can also depend on their criminal record and whether they have prior theft convictions, the type of property allegedly embezzled, and the person’s relationship to the property’s rightful owner. For instance, an offense is elevated to the next highest level of punishment if the owner was an elderly person or non-profit organization or if the person came into possession of the funds by virtue of their status as a public servant.
If a person is convicted of embezzlement in federal court for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641 or 18 U.S.C. § 666, they can face up to one year in prison if the value of the property was less than $1,000. Otherwise, the person may face up to 10 years in prison and a fine equal to embezzled property’s value.